Amber keen to spark into gear

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Amber Cunningham is just one of the blokes at the Albion club, but this weekend she will be mixing it with some of the best female cricketers in New Zealand. Hayden Meikle talks to the rising North Otago star ahead of her debut for the Otago Sparks.

Q: How old are you, Amber?
I’m 17.

Q: Have you finished at St Kevin’s?
No, I’ve still got next year. I’m just doing some work for New Zealand Post in the holidays.

Q: When did cricket become a big part of your life?
I started playing cricket in year 7 at Oamaru Intermediate. But I’d already had a lot of experience of sport thanks to my brothers. Cricket, rugby, hockey – a bit of everything.

Q: There are plenty of Cunninghams around. Where do you fit in?
My parents are Allan and Nikki, and my brothers are Karl, Scott, Cory and Josh. I’m the youngest.

Q: Was there something about cricket that you loved straight away?
No, not really. I was just naturally quite good at most sports so I probably just picked it up easily, and it went from there. I still play hockey, for St Kevin’s and North Otago, but otherwise it’s just cricket.

Q: How do you label yourself – batsman or bowler?
I’m more of a batter in women’s cricket. But I also do some wicketkeeping and bowl sometimes.

Q: When did you play your first game of senior men’s club cricket?
I was just 14, I think. It wasn’t too bad. There’s a good group of lads there and they helped a lot.  It was tough for a while, being the only girl, but you get used to it. There’s not much girls’ cricket at the higher levels around North Otago.

Q: To outsiders, the Mungers look like they could cause some trouble. What have those Albion men been like to play cricket with?
Yeah, they’re like family, pretty much. They’re fine. They treat me like one of the lads but they’re also quite protective, I suppose.

Q: Is facing a really fast men’s bowler like Francois Mostert much fun?
I hit him for eight runs last time I played him. I think he took none for nine, and I hit eight of those. Make sure you put that in the paper, ha ha.

Q: Who’s your most admired cricketer? Your hero?
Ricky Whyte. He’s a great captain for Albion. And a good bloke. And I suppose Suzie Bates would be second. Having her coach my under-15 team was great.

Q: Women’s cricket has really taken off in recent years. Are you pleased at how that side of the sport has progressed?
Yeah, it’s sort of getting bigger and better. Still a long way to go, I suppose, but it’s good to see.

Q: At what level have you represented Otago?
Under-15 and under-21, and now the Sparks.

Q: Are you excited about playing for the Sparks this weekend?
Yeah, it’s quite exciting. It should be a really good experience. I’ve been training with those girls in Dunedin over the winter so it should be fine. But I’ll be a bit nervous, as most would be.